The mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China published a cartoon on Monday featuring U.S. President Donald Trump alongside his chief strategic adviser Steve Bannon sporting a Nazi-style armband, The Guardian newspaper's bureau chief in Beijing tweeted.
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Bannon, a former banker who transitioned into a career as an ultranationalist propagandist, has been accused of holding radical right-wing views. The top adviser was reportedly the driving force behind parts of Trump's recently blocked travel ban and described U.S. Jews as "enablers" of Jihad in the proposal of a 2007 documentary.
"Today's China Daily has Steve Bannon in a red Nazi armband, leading the Titanic into the abyss," Tom Phillips tweeted. The image is reminiscent of Titanic's famous scene in which Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio share a romantic moment at the front of the doomed ship.
In response to Phillips' tweet, the BBC's correspondent in China posted that the photo editor of China Daily told the BBC that she did not notice the Nazi reference and chose the image because "it looked interesting."
The cartoon comes amid a war words between the Trump administration and the Chinese government. Relations between the two countries took a nosedive right after Trump's election, when he broke with decades of diplomatic protocol by talking on the phone with the president of Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that Beijing considers its own territory.
More recently, U.S. efforts to counter what it sees as China limiting freedom of navigation in the South China Sea have drawn Beijing's ire and stoked fears of military conflict. On Saturday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the U.S. is putting regional stability in East Asia at risk, after Trump's defense secretary said that a U.S. commitment to defend Japanese territory applies to an island group that China claims. Trump has also raised concerns with criticism of China's military buildup in the South China Sea, accusations of currency manipulation and unfair trade policies.
JTA, Reuters and AP contributed to this report.